Design as The Glimpse of A Better Life

In our western society, we have currently gained the luxurious position to discuss the drawbacks of our own prosperity. Global warming, traffic jams, obesity, and other urgent issues in western societies, they all represent the consequences of extreme luxury. And often consumerism is appointed guilty. While we were expanding the borders of our individual ownership, we conveniently ignored the consequences of this for our community and environment. However, now that many of us own a television, a dishwasher, and a smart phone, it becomes painfully apparent that this materialistic image of happiness is actually a pretty limited one… Or isn’t it? A few years ago, ‘shopping’ was considered a nice activity; it was even mentioned as a hobby by some. But we are slightly distancing ourselves from this activity that is so full of moral objections. “This fruit bowl is made of old tires from India.” “I only buy cosmetics at the Body Shop.” “Oh, I already recycle my wardrobe for a year now. I noticed that it is not about having, but about being...” 

Sustainability, in both environmental and social sense, is clearly gaining terrain. And luckily so. However, the claim that we need to ‘be’ rather than to ‘have’ is a superficial claim. It implicitly states that we buy products just to own them, to show them off to others, or to have more and better ones than our neighbour. It explains greed as the main drive for the desire to have, which is based on false observations. We do not buy to have… do we? The fact that I buy way too many body lotions is not because I simply want to own them. I do not buy new clothes to own more than other people do. I do not buy all these new notebooks to impress my friends. I buy new products because they imply change, and because change may mean improvement - as little as this may be. I do agree that is a superficial and even wasteful way of acting upon our desire to improve. And I do agree that it should be stopped. However, I do not think we will succeed in this until we find new, cheap and effortless ways to experience this hope for improvement. The question then becomes: how can we re-design these glimpses of a better life?


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